Does a Brain Scan Show Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease

Having trouble concentrating? Feeling anxious or depressed? Making uncharacteristically poor decisions? You might visit a psychiatrist or psychologist for answers. Based on your symptoms, you might get diagnosed with a mental health disorder. In some cases, however, the real culprit behind these symptoms is Lyme disease. But most traditional mental health professionals would never know it, because they don’t do brain imaging or lab testing to look for underlying infections.

What exactly does a brain scan reveal about Lyme disease? And why is it so important if you have symptoms that aren’t responding to standard mental health treatments? In this blog, you’ll learn how misdiagnosis of Lyme disease can lead to a lifetime of health woes that can persist and worsen over time. And how functional brain SPECT imaging can be the key to getting a proper Lyme disease diagnosis and the most effective treatment.

Misdiagnosis of Lyme disease can lead to a lifetime of health woes that can persist and worsen over time. Functional brain SPECT imaging can be the key to getting a proper Lyme disease diagnosis and the most effective treatment. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which occurs through the bite of an infected tick. Deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, are the carriers of Lyme disease, named for its first identification in Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975.

These ticks are found in the Eastern half of the United States, as well as on the West Coast. They frequent wooded areas, often hiding out in leaves or at the top of long grasses, and they quickly attach themselves to humans or pets that are passing through.

Ticks prefer warm and moist environments on the body, and in these areas, they can often burrow into the skin unnoticed. Like any parasite, they attach and feed on the blood of the host. If carrying Lyme disease, the tick can pass along the bacteria in only 36 to 48 hours, so it’s important to find them and remove them from the body as soon as possible.

And it’s not only woodsmen, outdoors lovers, or hikers who are at risk—these parasites can be present in your own backyard. Though ticks are most active in warmer temperatures, from spring to early fall, they can be a year-round presence (this varies according to region). Keep in mind that pets and children can be especially vulnerable, as they are more likely to get bitten without noticing.

LYME DISEASE SYMPTOMS

Many people associate Lyme disease with its trademark rash, shaped like a bull’s-eye. But this symptom occurs only in a subset of people. The CDC reports that 70% to 80% of people develop Lyme disease rashes. Physicians at Amen Clinics, however, estimate that rashes occur in only 20% to 40% of patients.

A bull’s-eye rash usually develops within 3 to 7 days of the bite and then grows in size, up to as much as 1 foot in diameter. This area of skin may feel warmer to the touch, but it’s not typically painful or itchy.

Other symptoms that may develop in the first month of infection include flu-like illness (including fever, chills, and/or body aches), fatigue or exhaustion, headaches, sleep disturbances, mood swings, impaired brain function, increased sensitivity to light or sounds, or paralysis on half of the face called Bell’s palsy.

Additional symptoms of Lyme disease can lead to very serious concerns that affect the entire body, such as:

  • Limb, nerve, and joint pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Racing heart or irregular heartbeat
  • Central nervous system effects, caused by brain or spinal cord inflammation
  • Drastic blood pressure changes
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia

Research shows that many people also experience cognitive and neuropsychiatric issues, such as:

Some Lyme disease patients have cases that persist over long periods, even after treatment, leading to Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). Late-stage or persistent cases can experience symptoms like progressive dementias, seizure disorders, strokes, movement disorders like Parkinson’s, or loss of vision.

In 2021, a study involving data from more than 12,000 Lyme disease patients reported that they had a 28% increased rate of mental health disorders compared to people without the diagnosis. Even more alarming, they were twice as likely to attempt suicide.

These issues can be worsened through common problems around Lyme, such as a lack of understanding among both family members and the medical community, plus the ongoing misdiagnosis that can continue for years.

WHAT BRAIN SCANS REVEAL ABOUT LYME DISEASE

Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to detect and too often overlooked. Most medical professionals use blood tests for diagnosis, which can lead to false negative results. They can also miss co-infections that may be present with Lyme. At the same time, it’s crucial to catch this disease early before it leads to further problems, and antibiotic treatment is more effective in earlier stages.

An accurate diagnosis is the first step to recovery from this potentially devastating condition. The good news is, that functional brain scans can be helpful in Lyme diagnosis. The brain SPECT imaging work at Amen Clinics—which includes over 225,000 brain scans on tens of patients—reveals certain patterns of brain activity that are associated with Lyme disease and other infections.

In particular, SPECT scans that show a scalloping pattern with overall decreased blood flow to the brain indicate possible infections. This pattern is also associated with drug or alcohol abuse, exposure to environmental toxins, hypothyroidism, and other issues.

Seeing the scalloping pattern on a SPECT scan prompts psychiatrists and integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physicians to ask important questions. This encourages to a deeper investigation into what is causing the scalloping and can lead to a Lyme disease diagnosis.

LYME DISEASE TREATMENT

In the case of Lyme disease, treating the infection is the first step in the healing process. Early-stage Lyme disease treatment may consist only of antibiotics. When detected later, however, you may require additional treatments for related issues such as anxiety or depression.

To further heal from Lyme-related symptoms, it’s important to follow a “brain rehab program.” In general, this involves avoiding anything that harms the brain and proactively engaging in habits that support brain health.

If you or someone you know may be infected with Lyme disease, seek help. Be sure to look for an integrative medicine physician or psychiatrist who uses brain imaging and is well-versed in treating the condition.

Lyme disease and its associated psychiatric and cognitive issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

9 Comments »

  1. Great information, as always! My son and I and so many people I know in CT have suffered from Lyme (acute and long term, misdiagnosed). My teen son developed severe depression and anxiety and saw wonderful Dr Lowe at Amen Clinic. After a scan and tests, untreated Lyme was the main culprit for severe depression and anxiety and sleep and other brain problems. A Lyme literate dr can help properly diagnose and treat. Also practice prevention year round: check yourself and kids after being outdoors; shower after being outdoors- even in your own backyard. You can be infected multiple times; this is not a one time thing. Treat your pets, who can carry ticks into your bed! And spray your yard April through October to cut the tick and mosquito populations. There are plenty of sprays (and spray companies) that are natural, safe and effective for this purpose. Keep you and your kids safe.

    Comment by LisaP — September 22, 2023 @ 4:17 AM

  2. I was diagnosed with Lyme in December 2014 but didn't get the results until January 2015. It was well entrenched by then because I had had the tick bite in mid-2013. No treatment was available to my budget because insurance did not pay for it. So, I still have Lyme. I am having memory loss of names and directions…as I'm 67 and getting close to 68, I will likely die with Lyme so have rescinded my organ transplant directives. I had fibromyalgia since the 1980s, I have lived in New England all my life but Lyme wasn't a 'thing' in my childhood. I am just so tired of being sick and tired! Thank you for researching and seeking to end this despicable disease.

    Comment by LynneDe — September 22, 2023 @ 6:12 AM

  3. I have been often told lyme disease can also mimic MS. Can functional brain spect differentiate the MS / Lyme Disease or both? Thank you in advance for your help

    Comment by Jodie Garrell — September 22, 2023 @ 7:13 AM

  4. This is so helpful. I am passing this piece on to several people I know suffering with Lyme's. But, I have a questions: If Lyme's is caused by a parasite, I would think anti-parasitic medicine would be used at part of treatment.

    Comment by Janis Parker — September 22, 2023 @ 7:31 AM

  5. Thank you for this article. It wasn’t until last year that I went to a naturopathic doctor only to find markers for past Lyme disease and also co-infections which caused me numerous hormonal issues, chronic headaches and chronic pain which in turn causes mental struggles and memory issues plus cognitive impairment. After this diagnosis I went down the road to the Amen clinic in Walnut Creek, Ca wanting more answers. Scan revealed & confirmed brain inflammation and depression. Money well spent to confirm nothing else wrong with me, but I’m still fighting the fight

    Comment by Jennifer Isham — September 22, 2023 @ 9:09 AM

  6. I have seen Lyme disease resolved in individuals with proper treatment. It has become an epidemic. I no longer backpack. So prevalent now on west coast. It has affected so many lives and has been so ignored by medical profession controlled by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Congress needs to address this medical epidemic.

    Comment by Jon Nickerson — September 22, 2023 @ 10:49 AM

  7. Lyme Disease is a beast. I have been fighting it since 2011. I have an excellent integrative medicine doctor in San Francisco. Low Dose Naltrexone has helped me a lot. I still would love to get a brain scan because I still have horrendous memory issues and word finding problems. My doctor has brought me back from the brink of death and I’m so thankful. Thank you for this article. Very informative and filled with knowledge for people who may not understand the severity of Lyme. Love your work and research!

    Comment by Annalisa — September 22, 2023 @ 12:19 PM

  8. Yes, Lyme Disease is beyond difficult. I acquired in 2003; went a year without a proper diagnosis (saw 5 doctors before one even knew of the possibility of Lyme Disease – which only makes things worse. Eastern medicine has been more helpful than Western. I've done picc lines 3X, 18 months apart for 3-4 months at a time using Rocephin, a drug used for cancer. It was all just repeat treatments with Western medicine. Herbals and Kambo Frog treatments have helped the most. When frog treatment is not easily available, I revert to 2 Rocephin shots, 2 days apart. It is so horrible to deal with and is only surpassed by how diffiuclt it is to find someone who knows what they are doing to diagnosis and treat it properly. I am certain Amen Clinics know exactly how to assist, so important they are available.

    Comment by Jo Hebert — September 26, 2023 @ 11:56 AM

  9. Magnificent items from you, man. I have have in mind your stuff prior to and you're just too great. I really like what you have obtained right here, really like what you're saying and the way in which wherein you say it. You make it enjoyable and you continue to care for to stay it smart. I can't wait to read far more from you. That is actually a terrific site.

    Comment by vorbelutr ioperbir — November 24, 2023 @ 7:31 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Contact Us

Pre-order Daniel Amen, MD’s new book “Raising Mentally Strong Kids” and get 5 bonus gifts! Click here for details.

X